When I was a child—back in the Devonian—I did not really care for moog dal. Mushoor dal was my absolute favourite, with chholar dal and kali dal rounding out the triumvirate. There was something about the flavour of moog dal that I just did not care for. Perhaps it was on account of the fact that my mother usually cooked it with vegetables and vegetables were a separate and entire class of things I did not care. Well, unsurprisingly, I grew to love moog dal as an adult; more surprisingly, perhaps, my kids absolutely love it. They will tolerate mushoor dal but it is moog dal they actually get excited to eat—all the rest are currently rejected. And so I make moog dal often. To keep things interesting for them—and for us—I experiment ever so often with tadkas. This, by the way, has been a major development in their relationship with dal. It used to be that they only wanted moog dal made without tadka (which can be very good, by the way). But now they put up with and even enjoy the flavour of various tadkas. This one in particular was a favourite in the early winter this year as my rosemary plant was slowly dying after having been dug up and brought indoors. Yes, I add a few sprigs of rosemary to the tadka. It goes really well with the flavour and aroma of the dal, which in the Bengali manner is dry-roasted before it is cooked.
for the dal
- 1 cup moog dal
- 5 cups water
- 1/8 tspn hing/asafoetida
- 1 tspn grated ginger
- 1 tspn jaggery or brown sugar
- 3/4 tspn turmeric
- 1 tspn ghee
- Salt to taste
for the tadka
- 1 tspn ghee
- 1/2 tspn zeera/cumin seeds
- 2-3 dried red chillies
- 1-2 sprigs rosemary
- One pinch garam masala
- Dry roast the dal for 5-6 minutes in a heavy bottomed pan, stirring often, till it has darkened and become aromatic.
- Rinse the dal in a few changes of water and add all the other ingredients from the “for the dal” column to the pan.
- Bring the contents of the pan to a boil over medium-high heat, taking care to not let it spill over the top of the pan as it rises to a boil. Lower the heat immediately to medium-low, stir the dal down and cook for 30-40 minutes, uncovered till the dal has softened and just begun to give up its shape.
- Keep the dal on a simmer while you prepare the tadka as follows:
- In a small skillet heat the remaining ghee over medium heat and when it foams add the chillies, cumin and rosemary.
- Saute till the chillies puff up and the cumin splits.
- Remove the chillies from the hot pan and add them to the dal.
- Let the cumin and rosemary “steep” in the hot ghee for a minute or two and then add them to the dal as well.
- Add the pinch of garam masala and stir it all in.
- The final texture of the dal is really up to you and how you want it will determine how long you cook it. If you’re impatient you could cook the dal covered for 15-20 minutes after you’ve reduced the heat post-boil, see what the texture is like and reduce it accordingly with the lid off. You could also start with even more water and cook it down if it’s too thin when the dal is approaching the texture you want.
- The combination of the nutty aroma and flavour of the roasted moog dal, the cumin and the rosemary is very nice indeed. A light hand with the tadka—which really seems to go against the way in which tadka is pushed online these days—allows everything to harmonize nicely.
- Sage is also a natural pairing with moog dal if you want to keep playing with herbs, and I rather suspect that marjoram and oregano will work well too. I will experiment with those when my herb garden comes back to life next summer.